transition from a centrally-managed economy to free markets presents many
challenges for Moldova's beekeepers. They must create markets for their
products, implement new business processes, and improve their technical
skills. There are near-term hardships, but there are also good
opportunities to develop businesses.
The Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs (CNFA) is
government-supported agency dedicated to stimulating international economic
growth in developing and emerging world markets. In May 2001, I had the opportunity to work for 3
weeks with members of a Moldavian beekeeping cooperative to improve their marketing,
financial management and production of bee
These are some photographs from my visit.
bee hives in Moldova are the Russian-style "long" hive design. This
hive design is very labor intensive, since each individual frame of honey must
be handled during the harvesting process.
bees are kept in mobile bee houses that are moved to locations near
nectar-producing plants (right).
Selling honey at acceptable prices was generally perceived by the beekeepers as
their biggest obstacle to financial success.
Many beekeepers I met had a good knowledge of bees but
did not use some management techniques that are widely used in the U.S. to
encourage populous colonies that produce large honey crops. These
techniques include regularly requeening colonies with prolific, low-swarming
young queens, and stimulating brood rearing prior to the spring
nectar flow to produce large honey crops. Vertically-oriented hives would
be an improvement too, but that requires a larger financial investment.
Risk of hives being stolen is a major impediment to high-scale honey production.
Beekeepers typically guarded their bee hives day and night, with several
beekeepers often sharing this work. The need to protect hives
against theft makes it difficult for beekeepers to expand their number of hives,
since the number of hives at a single location is limited by the quantity of
is a land with rich soil and a moderate climate that makes it ideal for some
agricultural crops. Sunflower crops, acacia trees and wild flowers are the primary source of
nectar for honey production.
trees produce an excellent tasting,
near water-white honey that is very slow to crystallize. Later nectar flows
come from wild flowers and sunflowers.
food stores in Moldova's capital, Chisinau, sell imported honey. In contrast, locally-produced honey is
often poorly packed, often with no
label, and sold at lower prices on roadsides and in agricultural markets.
There is no developed export market for Moldova honey, although production
costs and proximity to Western Europe make this an attractive opportunity.
My meetings with beekeeping cooperative members focused on:
& calculating product profitability
rearing & improving honey yields
Potential new honey and wax products
I advised specific changes to honey purchase prices and sales
commissions, recommended improvements to label design, and introduced them to a
potential beeswax candle design.
addition to formal educational sessions, we raised queens using two
methods. Raising queens is important because young queens are more
prolific egg-layers and swarm less than older queens, which usually results in
during my assignment, we checked the hatched queens. About half our queens
were successful, which is less than ideal but we had to rush a few steps, such
as feeding and stocking of nucleus colonies, due to our schedule.
my visit, a group of 5 Moldova beekeepers and I visited larger-scale
beekeeping operations in Romania. The trip to Romania provided Moldova
with a first-hand look at beekeepers who are successfully generating incomes from
queen rearing, pollen collecting and royal jelly production, as well as
Adrian Siceanu and Eliza Cauia (at left), both researchers at the Romanian Beekeeping
Research and Development Institute, were excellent hosts and guides during our visit.
Here are a few more photos from our visit with Romanian beekeepers:
At a Romanian queen-rearing location, the beekeepers practiced grafting larva
(left), and inspected queen mating colonies (right).
also observed how beeswax was converted into comb foundation for future use in
the Romanian Beekeeping Research and Development Institute, Eliza Cauia demonstrated how queen
bees can be artificially inseminated to control colony genetics (left).
Several Moldova beekeepers then had an opportunity to try inseminating
the Romanian national beekeeping association, the staff showed us the bee
products they produce from pollen and propolis that they buy from beekeepers.
A personal highlight of my trip was
learning how royal
jelly was produced by a beekeeping family in Romania. The royal jelly was
sold to make products in the health food industry.
The photo at right shows the royal jelly being
sucked out of the cells after the larva have been removed.
visited a pollen-trapping beekeeper whose primary income was from pollen trapped
from his 80 hives.
He also described the process for collecting bee
venom, which can be sold for medicines (right).
Before my arrival in Moldova, an earlier CNFA volunteer worked with these
beekeepers on introduction of a bottled comb honey product, which they were now
producing during the acacia nectar flow.
The acacia honey is ideal for comb honey because
it does not crystallize quickly, so it has a long shelf-life.
The cooperative monitors the quality of their comb honey carefully to be sure that
only acacia or other slow-crystallizing honey is bottled in the comb.
Mindria Albinei cooperative produces and sells top-quality, low-moisture honey
in bulk and bottled for domestic and foreign markets. They pack honey from
three separate floral sources: acacia, sunflower, and wildflower. To
buy honey, the association can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope these beekeepers will adopt a few of the
ideas I presented to them during my visit, especially the financial analysis to
determine appropriate pricing for purchases of honey and product sales, and to
understand product profitability. Also, the need to actively seek new
customers, both retail stores and buyers of bulk honey.
trip was not all work. I enjoyed meeting wonderful people, good
food and experiences. I even took some non-beekeeping
CNFA did a great job of managing my
assignment. I highly recommend CNFA to
Americans with agri-business skills who are interested in volunteer foreign development